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Industry Talk

Leading by Example: LIMA Re-brands to Licensing International

Contact the editor at karina@plainlanguagemedia.com

The trade association representing the licensing business has a new name, a new website, and a new image. TLL’s Executive Editor Karina Masolova got on the phone with Licensing International President Maura Regan to delve deeper into the reasons why, and how the industry should evolve going forwards.

The following selections of our conversation have been edited for length and clarity.

Karina Masolova, The Licensing Letter: What’s going on in the industry that motivated the evolution of Licensing International from LIMA?

Maura Regan, Licensing International: Most of what we’re seeing is tremendous change being driven by consumer insights. The industry overall—licensees, brand owners, retailers, agencies—are all seeking greater understandings of how to tap into the consumer, stay relevant and engage and excite that consumer. This in turn has driven the need for consumer insights and analytics to better manage the business.

Changing our name was really the final stage in a year-long process that centered around what our members and potential members wanted and needed to succeed. In order to be able to speak and articulate a point of view and have, I think, some real credibility with these different industries, it really calls for a refreshment.

We’re an industry that is driven by the need to stay relevant and connect with consumers. As the premier association representing this wonderful industry, our members told us we were well in need of a refresh. On a practical level, we weren’t doing a great job of branding ourselves because as it turns out, our former acronym and name didn’t really do any kind of heavy lifting—it no longer represented the breadth of our industry or integrated the global nature of all we do. Accordingly, we looked to tap into the key attributes of what we do and stand for.

Karina: That makes perfect sense. Thank you.

Maura: You’re welcome.

Karina: But I’m wondering if there are any initiatives that you guys are pushing with this change? Because when I think of LIMA, it’s the trade shows, and, you know, the educational seminars and stuff that you do year-round.

Maura: Our mission is to provide best-in-class educational programs, information, networking platforms and drive an understanding of licensing to the broader business community. We love participating in the trade shows produced by our strategic partner UBM/Informa, because trade shows are an effective business tool. We do more of the content. Wherever licensing executives are gathering, we’re there with a content offering.

[Editor’s note: Maura additionally lists educational efforts at one day conferences, events like Nuremberg Toy Fair and Hong Kong Toy Fair as well as in countries like China, and the CLS program.]

Karina: What is CLS?

Maura: This is our long-standing coursework in licensing program, which is a fantastic program to gain insights and know-how on the business of licensing.

We want and need to do so much more—specifically on the education front and build on the great offerings we have with CLS.

Karina: In terms of other markets, in terms of leadership, not only in the role of looking in towards the industry but as a trade organization talking to the rest of the world and providing a voice for everybody, is there something that Licensing International is doing?

Maura: Absolutely! We work closely with various local trade associations, government associations, etc., to create strategic partnerships creating greater opportunities and advantages for our members.

We just launched a byline in Forbes and will be contributing to this important business magazine on a quarterly basis. Our goal is to use this to further our reach to the broader business community.

Karina: The Forbes article was a fantastic introduction to licensing. I’m really looking forward to the education aspect growing. Because that’s the thing that I see that’s really missing. That, and the professionalism.

Maura: I love this industry. And I feel that as a business model, licensing does not get the credit it deserves. Every analyst call that you listen to—whether it’s Disney or Viacom or Hasbro—is often focused on the performance of their licensing business. In every greenlight production meeting for kids programing, there is much focus on the consumer products opportunities.

Additionally, licensing affords businesses a real-time insights in very measurable ways to evaluate what’s really connecting with the consumers, Traditional marketing, advertising, and PR are all part of the licensing universe, but ultimately, licensing affords significant insights with real currency values attached. Which is why I believe licensing needs to enjoy a greater participation in strategic planning; a seat at the table if you will. My goal: every company should have a Chief Licensing Officer..

Karina: Have you ever seen somebody calculate the marketing value of a licensed line? Not just in terms of retail sales value, but attaching a value to seeing licensing product.

Maura: That’s the holy grail.

Karina: I feel like I’ve never seen somebody attach a number figure like, say, having a t-shirts line at Walmart is like is equivalent to paying a million dollars for a Super Bowl ad or something like that. So that t-shirt line is worth a million dollars before you even get to actual sales.

Maura: That’s on my to-do list. I have always considered retail a media outlet which impacts a brand beyond or in addition to the sale of a particular product. That said, we are in conversation with different universities about valuing this. We all understand it intuitively, and I know it anecdotally. I completely agree. Again, it’s next up on my list.

Karina: Any last words?

Maura: Ultimately, whether you’re for-profit and not-for-profit, it’s all about what your business strategy is and how you are looking to engage the consumer. And licensing is a great way to do that. It really is. For the brand owner, it’s less risky than running these businesses on your own and from the side of a manufacturer, it gives you a leg up and a retail opportunity that you would not have necessarily gotten. And despite consolidation at retail and everything else, it is all about discoverability and that comes from great brand licensing.

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